World Building and Warfare
James A. Moore
So I recently finished writing an article on world building, and that works well for me here, because I’m still in that mind set. It’s a different sort of thing, really. I’m used to writing horror more than I am fantasy and that gives me a handy shortcut to take, because horror is usually set in the modern day and in the world we currently live in. There are exceptions, of course, but not really all that many. Even if I decide to set a story in the era of the Western Expansion in the United States, it’s still this world and only a little research is required to work out the details of how different the world is now from what it was then. To be sure, there are some very radical differences, but ultimately the work has already been done.
That’s not the case when you’re creating a completely new world. Just as basic information, I have to consider the history of that world, the cultures that have evolved in that world, the people of that world and the geo-political boundaries of that world.
Let’s break that down a bit more, if you don’t mind. I promise I’ll keep it brief.
The History of the World:
In the world of the Seven Forges, the history is significant and a great deal of it has been lost in time. SEVEN FORGES deals very heavily with the fact that the largest empire on the planet—very possibly the only empire on the planet—is vast and old. How old? Over one thousand years. Any way you look at it, that covers a lot of time. In the case of the Fellein Empire, they’ve had a peaceful run of things for most of four hundred years. They have their traditions and they have certainly kept up with running the Imperial Army and protecting their borders, but they haven’t really had anything to protect themselves from. The empire eliminated all of their biggest threats a long time ago.
Except, of course, that history is always there. Somewhere past the Blasted Lands, an area devastated during the very early formative years of the empire, there is a land filled with people who’ve spent the last thousand years honing their martial skills and working to become the absolute pinnacle of human perfection. They’ve lived hard lives, brutal and violent lives and they’ve studied every form of combat they could think of, all with the notion of serving their gods. They are fanatical in their devotion and they are physically superior to the average member of the Fellein Empire because of the lives they are forced to live.
The two groups have a shared history and you want to know the most important part of that history? They each remember it very differently. Therein lies a significant part of the story.
It’s not something I really had to think about in the past. A little research, a few pages from history books and a news article or two and I had all I needed to know about most cultures. The difference, again, is that I made a new world. The only cultures here are the once I create.
The Seven Forges has seven different countries wrapped into their own religious doctrines and run as separate entities, crammed into a relatively small area. For one thousand years they have struggled between each other, occasionally formed alliances, often faced the same threats at the same times and dealt with crime and punishment in their own ways.
They have followed seven different gods that have decidedly changed the ways in which those kingdoms deal with each other. They have never been properly united as an empire. Instead they have dealt with each other as enemies and on many occasions as necessary evils. And all that time, they’ve been consciously aware of the fact that they were, as a people, studying the art of war and becoming, as individuals, the best possible warriors.
They have several different languages and they have their own unique ways of dealing with their pantheon of gods, with the hostile environment right outside of their valley and the belief that somewhere, out beyond the desolation of the Blasted Lands, there are other people who will eventually come to the and change their world completely.
The Fellein Empire is built of several different kingdoms. It’s a loose conglomeration of nations that deal with each other amiably because there are no real threats and because they have known prosperity for a long time. They share a political government and each kingdom or region has its own geography, culture and traditions in addition to the traditions of the Empire.
Beyond that Empire there are several other kingdoms that are, mostly, unseen by the people of Fellein. They are simply too far distant to have much of an impact on their lives.
That will change, of course, but the point is that I have to develop those different cultures.
I can look to the history of our world for a part of that, of course, but not for all of it. There have to be differences or I’m just cheating and copying what already exists. That would be far less interesting and, frankly, far less fun.
I have to follow a certain logic with all that I do, and to an extent human nature helps with what happens, but before I can create those new countries I have to understand the aforementioned history of each area. I have to know how they’ve reacted to each other and whether or not there is bad blood between these different nations and countries and neighbors.
I have to consider their religions, their economies, their pasts and their present situations. I have to anticipate how those situations will change as the story progresses.
The People of the World:
The culture and history of the world are all part and parcel for the people of the world. The people are byproducts of both, really. There are places in Fellein where slavery is perfectly acceptable. There are areas, as explain in SEVEN FORGES, where it just plain isn’t wise for a member of the fairer sex to move out on her own unless she wants to risk being assaulted. Of course, there are also females in the same world who make mincemeat of the type of scum who would attempt to take unwanted advantage.
The two sides of the coin in this particular tale are the people of Fellein, a very large and diverse empire with vastly different ethnicities, and the Sa’ba Taalor a single people isolated from the rest of the world for a thousand years.
Let’s take a step back for a moment, shall we? I already said that there are seven separate nations in the Taalor Valley. That’s the truth. But they are seven nations with one people. They share a very closed environment. No one from outside of the Seven Forges has come into the area willingly in a thousand years and those that have? Well, that’s for another story as yet to be revealed. But they are one people with multiple cultures. They do not have the same diversity that has shown up in a thousand-year-old empire.
Culture shock is inevitable and, for me at least, fun.
I moved around a lot as a kid. I counted it once and I went to a total of seventeen schools in my twelve years of public schooling. I lived in five different states and multiple cities, towns and counties in the process. I loved meeting new people and going to new places when I wasn’t busy dreading the exact same things. I loved meeting new people when they weren’t actively hostile toward anyone who was an outsider. Happened more than you might expect. I kept that in mind when I started writing SEVEN FORGES, but I also tried to remember the sense of wonder when I saw new things and met new people.
They are only important for one reason: They can alter the course of armies. It might be easy to attack a neighboring nation if the land between you is wide open fields, a little farmland and a creek or two, but throw in a mountain pass, a serious collection of hills and valleys or an ocean and suddenly the war takes on a different meaning.
In this case we have the Blasted Lands. Listen; in the books the Blasted Lands are bad enough. Expeditions have tried for hundreds of years to get past them with no real luck. Those that came back did so without any success at all and a lot never came back. There are raging storms, bitter cold winds, horrid living conditions and things out in that darkness. They never go away.
Anyone attempting to travel through that madness to have a fight has to come prepared for a great deal of inconvenience. Or, they need to have been dealing with negotiating the hideous conditions for the last ten or so centuries. You know, like the Sa’ba Taalor.
The one potential advantage the Fellein Empire has is that the Sa’ba Taalor are forbidden to go anywhere near the wreckage that the people of the valley call “the Mounds.” The bad news? There are things in the Mounds and those things do not play nicely with others.
For the Empire there has been no challenge for a very long time. For the Sa’ba Taalor every day has been a challenge for even longer. It’s one thing for an army to “invite” themselves into neutral territory and storm across the terrain. It’s quite another to move quickly through frozen mountain passes and across deep ravines with an army of ten thousand soldiers.
One of the things about fantasy settings that keeps them interesting is the lack of too many cheats. By that I mean in a modern setting you can move your army via ship or plane. In a fantasy setting it’s not always that easy. Of course the rules change from world to world, but there it is. In the world of Fellein there are no airships, nor are there dragons to ride into combat (it would be cool, but no, not this time).
There are foot soldiers, navies and armies. There are horses and there are the mounts of the Sa’ba Taalor. The mounts are fewer in number, like the Sa’ba Taalor. They are also deadly predators with large teeth, heavy claws and a penchant for eating their enemies.
Those are really the only modes of transport available, and the armies have to cross some rather unforgiving terrains.
Which brings us to war.
The line under the title on SEVEN FORGES is “War is coming.” The line under the title of THE BLASTED LANDS is “War is here.” The third books should have the line “We’re only getting started.” There are conflicts in both books. They are violent and bloody and set the tone for the rest of the series.
The Sa’ba Taalor worship seven different gods, true enough, but they are all gods of war. They have spent a thousand years preparing for a fight and the people they intend to fight have spent four hundred years getting a little lazy and out of shape as far as nations go.
The Fellein Empire has no real information on the size of the Sa’ba Taalor armies. They only know that their enemies are seriously scary in combat. They only know that on the two occasions where they’ve seen the Sa’ba Taalor engaged in fights, the people of the valley walked away victorious and left no survivors.
It really depends on how you look at it, but on the psychological warfront the Sa’ba Taalor are already well ahead of the game.
There is also a fleet of black ships in THE BLASTED LANDS, and that fleet comes sailing out of the volcanic ash and ruin of a series of islands now completely devastated. And it heads directly for the southernmost part of the Fellein Empire with every intention of making brutal contact.
On the one hand there is the Empire, which while prosperous has grown careless. When there are no threats it is easy to relax. They have numbers, yes, and they have vast resources, but those resources are spread out as far s the Fellein Empire itself.
On the other hand, the smaller, harder armies of the Sa’ba Taalor. Armies? Yes. Seven gods, seven kingdoms, seven kings and seven armies. They have fought each other for centuries and for the first time in their history, they fight together united against a common enemy.
Each god has a different philosophy of war. Each king follows a different god and the orders of that deity. Each kingdom is populated by people who believe that war and worship are the same thing and they are a very devout people.
Which side would you bet on?
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